Learn to have eyes in the back of your head this month; you’ll need them to keep an eye on your 15-month-old! This is the month when they will become even more proficient at walking and build up a little speed in their step. Spills and falls are all part of the learning process but you will learn to predict when you shouldn’t stray too far from their side. Uneven ground, slopes, slippery surfaces and unfamiliar territory will all mean an unstable base and an increased chance of falls. Make sure you offer your toddler lots of comfort and cuddles when they are hurt or upset. One of most powerful emotional responses children need to feel from their parents is empathy. Avoid feeling as if you are spoiling your toddler by showing them you are there for them when they are hurt. This is a time when they will seek reassurance and the security that only you can provide. Both boys and girls need to know what it means to be comforted when they are feeling hurt or sad.
Growth and development
Your toddler won’t have their full complement of 20 baby teeth until they are between 2½ years old. This means there will still be spaces in their gums to accommodate more of their baby teeth. Caring for their baby teeth is very important because they will set the pattern for the correct position of their permanent teeth. Baby teeth are particularly prone to decay so if your baby is still bottle feeding, so now would be a good time to stop.
This is the age when your toddler will be fascinated by the different textures and the appearance of items. They may develop an attachment for a silky or furry piece of clothing and want to sleep with it. It is normal for young children to become attached to a “transitional love object” at this age so if your child does, avoid interpreting this as a sign of future emotional problems.
Expect lots of chatter and talk this month but try not to see this as having too much meaning. Some words may be very clear such as; “Mom”; “Dad”; “No”; “Yes”; and even sibling names, but your toddler’s speech will still be restricted to syllables, especially those containing lots of nouns and parts of words rather than entire words. Girls tend to talk earlier than boys and, even at this age, are more vocal and chatty.
Play and interaction
Your toddler may want to start “helping” you now especially when it coming to dressing and undressing. These skills take some time to perfect but you won’t always have the time to spare when they want to practice. Nappies will still be necessary at this age but you’ll find your toddler won’t want to lie still for changing. Keep a supply of toys nearby to distract them and build your own skills in changing them quickly. If they are prone to kicking during nappy changing, stand to their side rather than in front of them.
Bath time is a great opportunity for play now. You may find it difficult to get your toddler into the bath but once there, it becomes hard to get them out. Water can be a source of endless fascination for toddlers and you’ll find they are drawn to it. At this age your toddler will not have any concept of danger or risk so you will have to watch them very carefully whenever they are around water. Toddlers can drown in very small amounts. So make sure they cannot access buckets, pet water bowls, baths or water holding containers as well as pools, dams, creeks or any other place where there are large volumes of water.
Help your toddler to build on their social skills this month by joining a play-group, taking them to the park or having a little friend over to play. Although they are unlikely to play “with” each other, just having another little person to entertain them can be fun. It won’t be until your toddler is older that they will stop playing alongside each other and play interactively.
What you can expect this month
Perhaps some early tantrums behaviour may emerge this month, causing you to wonder just where your calm little baby has gone to. Until your toddler learns how to deal with their anger and frustration effectively, these emotions will be externalised. Even when they are cross, your toddler will still need to know you are close and that they can rely on you for security. Tiredness, hunger and boredom are often the precursors for emotional meltdowns and in reality, it is not always possible to prevent these situations from occurring. Get into the habit of always carrying snacks and drinks when you go out. If your toddler’s blood sugar level becomes low, they will be difficult to reason with. Healthy snacks like fruit, sandwiches and crackers are portable and will sustain their appetite until the next main meal. Buy a supply of small, sealable containers, which will fit comfortably into your bag. It can be hard to find take-away food which is suitable for this age-group and it pays to know exactly what is going into your toddler’s mouth.
Expect your toddler to use the word “no” to its best advantage this month. When accompanied by a firm shake of their head they will really learn to get their point across. Think about your own language when you are communicating with them and try, where possible, to be encouraging rather than always telling them not to do something. Although it may not always seem like it, your toddler is learning every day.
Food and nutrition
If you are still breastfeeding, don’t feel any pressure to wean. There are clear health benefits for both of you in continuing to breastfeed for as long as you are both happy. Be aware though, that breastmilk is low in iron so if your toddler is feeding alot, then they may not be as hungry for solid meals as they could be. Aim for around 3-4 breastfeeds per day, any more may compromise their food intake. There is no need to offer your toddler speciality “toddler” formula, unless this has been recommended by a health professional. Full cream cow’s milk is an ideal calcium and fat source until they are around 2 years of age.
Give your toddler lots of opportunity to chew their food and use their molars for the purpose they are intended. If they aren’t keen on lumps, continue to offer them anyway. Lots of toddlers continue to spit lumps out long after they are at the age when they can chew perfectly well. Think about your own habits and behaviours when it comes to serving their meals and remember, it is time, exposure, patience and opportunity which encourage toddlers to learn new skills. Hunger too, will persuade them more than anything else to try new foods and accept unfamiliar tastes and textures.
Your toddler may want to snack frequently, rather than eat large quantities at mealtimes. This is common but can be impractical for busy families who thrive on routines. As long as your toddler is having 3 main meals and 2 snacks which contain healthy foods, they will be supplied with all their nutritional requirements. Even if a between meal snack seems very small it can still make a big difference to a toddler’s appetite. Try to plan for their meals and be on time with offering them. Toddlers tend to like to eat earlier than older children and adults. Lunch time of 11-11.30am and dinner at around 5pm is ideal for this age-group.
Keeping your toddler healthy
It will be impossible to prevent your toddler from picking up colds and it may seem as if they just get over one and then get another. If they are at day-care, they will be more at risk of contracting infectious illnesses, simply because of their tendency to get up close and personal with each other. Many of the common viruses which afflict this age-group have no effective cures which mean the only real management is time.
Boosting your toddler’s immune system to help insulate them against becoming sick will help. Sleep, having a good diet, rest and minimising their exposure to other sick children will all help. Encourage them to wash their hands before eating and help them learn what’s involved. Invest in a toddler step to ease their access to the sink and change household towels frequently. Drying their hands after washing them is equally as important as any other of the hand washing steps.
Keep your toddler busy in the afternoons and where possible, encourage them to get out in the yard.
This will help to tire them out and to settle more easily at night. Swings, sand-pits, balls, slides and bikes are all great for this age group. They will want toys and climbing equipment which involve their whole body, not just their hands.
Follow a similar, predictable and stable daily routine when you can.
Your 15-month-old will thrive on the security of knowing how each day is likely to unfold. Although this can be boring for their parents, it does wonders for toddlers.
Sing songs, play silly games, read books and have fun with your toddler each day.
This is a delightful age – full of discovery and charm. Give your toddler lots of positive feedback for being so interested in what is going on in their little world.
Remember to always strap your toddler securely into their car seat.
They may learn how to undo their restraint this month. If so, pull over, make sure they are buckled in and then proceed on. Distract them with some toys or have snacks at hand to offer them. Have a car rule that the car does not move unless everyone is correctly strapped into their restraints. This includes adults too.